We often revisit horse riding holiday destinations for various different reasons and this time Zara and I were going back to Sierra Tejeda, a remote finca up in the mountains high above Malaga to touch base with Donna and the Sierra Tejeda team. They had built some new accommodation, a renovated stable block, which we wanted to see!
Easy flight from UK to Malaga with Easyjet, efficient and budget friendly, perfect for a short European flight. At the airport, Zara and I hooked up in Arrivals, she was flying in from Ireland and as per usual we were pleased to see each other, big hugs and smiles and chatting straight away about our ponies, the kids and our lame husbands (we’ve been best friends since we met age 9 – we were both taught to ride by same instructor Jill Cousen!).
Meeting us at the airport to take us up the mountain was Lorna, she, her husband and daughter recently relocated to Spain from the UK and Lorna is working with Donna as the business has grown, to support bookings and guide. (Lorna was originally a client and at last count visited Sierra Tejeda 6 times in one year, it seemed better sense in the end for them to move out she loved it so much!).
The drive takes just over an hour and as you climb higher and higher into the mountains you realise why it is a MUST to drive a 4×4. As it becomes more remote, the roads become bumpy and rocky and Lorna drives slowly and carefully – phew! Stopping at Competa, one of the beautiful mountain villages we have a great view of the valley down to the ocean and manage to fit in a quick beer at the local tapas bar before our final drive to the finca.
We drive into the yard and we enjoy a wonderful welcome, everyone is there to meet us, Donna, Tony and Ricky, their 27yr old son, plus the 3 dogs, wagging their tails! It’s lunchtime so we’re ushered through the original finca courtyard, past the pool and the organic vegetable garden, to the new converted stable to drop our bags and get back to the terrace for lunch! Donna’s keen to serve us some Margarita’s and get us out on the horses!
It’s our first view of the new stable accommodation and it’s gorgeous, it’s set in a little gorge, with stunning views down to the ocean and a little terrace to sit and contemplate with a table and chairs. Inside it has twin beds, plus a day bed, so can take up to 3 people sharing family or friends. It also doubles up as a ‘Love Shack’ for anyone looking for a romantic getaway or honeymoon! There’s also a sink, tea & coffee making facilities and fridge. The ensuite is beautiful, lovely and big with a shower and the detail in the tiling where you stand is fantastic – all done by hand and in fact by Donna. Truth be told it’s all pretty beautiful made all the more so by the fact that it was all done by hand by Tony, Ricky and Steve (Lorna’s husband) over the summer when they had a spare moment. Except of course the Donna’s tiling in the bathroom!
We drop our bags and get changed into our riding clothes after admiring the new accommodation and dash back to the pool area for our welcome Margaritas and scrummy lunch of tortilla, potato salad and beetroot salad, yum! Sunglasses are on and we soak up the sun (in the 20’s, perfect riding weather in November!) and admire the most awesome of mountain views.
Next stop, our afternoon ride, we head over to the immaculately swept yard (down to Ricky) and find our mounts all ready and tacked up for us, tied to their stations. The horses here are wonderful, all hand-picked by Donna and with her philosophy of how a riding holiday horse should go – with spirit and safety! As you can imagine, none of them are plodders and we know we’re going to enjoy fast paced walking right up to a few blasts of gallop! The horses range in size from about 14hh up to 16.2hh and are Andalusians and Andalusian Crosses, some bought locally like the beautiful mare I was riding or bred by themselves.
The ride is great, I opt for the Spanish saddle, uber comfortable, with plenty of padding on the seat area so I can just sit back, relax and enjoy the stunning mountain scenery. We take the Competa ride, which takes us down the mountain track, through a river and into the village, where we stop for a little refreshment – the horses are happily tied up to trees by the roadside. While there other riders pass by the Tapas bar on their Andalusians, local trainers out exercising, it’s a great sight, one seldomly enjoyed back home. Then it’s back on the horses, to make the journey back up the mountain with a couple of canters to get us there quicker before darkness descends.
When we get back to the yard, Ricky is waiting to help any of us that need it, to untack and prepare the horses for going back into their paddocks. And then we’re invited for a quick G&T, before having a breather back in our room to chill, have a shower and get ready for dinner. I know, it’s a hard job but some-one has to do it!
Evenings here are very sociable, Donna, Ricky and Tony are perfect hosts, inviting us into their dining room, which is in full view of the kitchen and feels snug, up against the open fire. On the table are nibbles, Donna has made some delicious pate, there are some home grown olives in chilli and chorizo to help ourselves to before the main course arrives, which was oven baked chicken in parma ham with a vegetable quinoa salad. Desert was a homemade almond cake followed by local cheese and biscuits – it was all delicious and no chance of anyone going hungry! Drink wise, we were offered everything, Cava, wines red or white, beers or spirits – we opted for the local Cava, it was perfect! And the conversation flows, we’re also there at the same time as a lovely couple from Aberdeen, Ali was on her third trip that year and this time had brought her husband. The conversation flowed from tales of our most exciting riding escapades to the world economy and price of oil!
We slept really well, the beds were super comfortable! Breakfast was at about 8/8.30am and we were greeted by the smell of freshly brewed coffee and a table set with a bowl full of yoghurt and honey, courtesy of their neighbour, sprinkled with Granola, good start to the day, followed by hot rolls and croissants. Just before we sat down, we nipped over to the yard to see the horses flying in from the paddocks, docking religiously into their own station to enjoy their breakfast, a mix of bran, oats and cubes!
Today’s ride we were heading up into the mountains, as if we were going to Qatar, only coming back the same day rather than staying the night and doing it in 2 days – this is a stunning ride, the views are amazing and I’m always in awe of what I can see from this position! We took a pack lunch too, as there’s no Tapas bars up here! Sadly, as we hit the summit of one of the mountains, Tony’s horse starts to colic, he says he’ll head off back to the finca himself, but we all agree, all for one and one for all so we all descend off the mountain as quickly as possible, which at one point, meant getting off and sending our horses down what seemed a near vertical mountain track, headed by Donna on foot – they tackled it so well, like mountains goats, as we stumbled hurriedly behind them! We were all really concerned about the gelding, he was clearly in distress, upset and trying to roll as we made our way down, we just needed to get him home and there he could be administered with some meds to relax his stomach. At last we were back, he got his drugs and within minutes he was settled and fine – phew!
We sat on the terrace having our packed lunch with a beer, contemplating the mornings events! It was a lovely day and the thought was to just chill by the pool and jack the riding! BUT Donna had other ideas, as far as she was concerned the gelding was fine, Ricky would mind him and we would all ride out again to the lost village that afternoon and that’s what we did.
Another great ride and in another completely different direction, this time to the East of the finca, following old routes and after a few canters we were in the lost village, it’s here many people hid when Franco came into power – in fact this whole area is full of the stories of broken families affected by his regime. The bar we stop at for a refreshment that afternoon, their grandfather was murdered by Francos men. While our horses are tied up at the roadside, 2 carts pass by pulled by mules joined by about 6 men riding their Andalusians behind – just a normal Sunday afternoon up in the mountains!
We fly home this afternoon, a good few gallops under our belts and a good finish to a day that could have been very different, we’re all on a high! We help with the yard duties and pop the horses out into their paddocks for the night, before getting ourselves ready for our last meal before returning home to the UK the next day – it feels like we’ve packed in quite a lot in just a day and a half already and we feel completely at home.
Dinner this evening is a bit quieter, Lorna’s off to read bedtime stories to her daughter and Tonys got an early start, he’s also a blacksmith in the area but it doesn’t matter, we still enjoy a great evening with Donna and Ricky hosting and with our new friends, Ali and Innus. Again nibbles feature on the table as we arrive, there’s more of the delicious pate, thank goodness as I couldn’t get enough the night before and olives, chorizo and some crisps. The main meal is a local dish, sausages on a bed of lentils, with roast potatoes and home grown pumpkin salad, followed by cheese and biscuits and a selection of chocolates – all in all it’s another delicious meal and we enjoy more bottles of cava and enjoy stories round the table.
It’s our day of departure, boohoo – I have a great life waiting for me at home but I’m not quite ready to leave. Sierra Tejeda is a special place and I know that I’ll be back soon (I’ll think of some excuse why we need to see Donna again!) But why is it so special… lots of reasons, great horses, original finca accommodation, littered with antiques and special objects, the views, the dogs, it’s just the vibe… and that’s down to Donna, there are few people that have the skill to make you feel at home instantly. She really cares, Donna likes people, honestly she does, doesn’t matter who you are or what you do, she’ll want to listen to you, talk to you and be your friend, why? Because she can!
Sierra Tejeda, Spain is open all year round making it the perfect destination for horse riding holidays in Spain. You can stay for any length of nights. There are also special feria dates throughout the year, which clients can join and ride their horse to the village feria and take part in the procession. It’s a thrilling, cultural experience not to be missed.
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